I learnt a lot of things at University the first time around, but not the things they wanted me to learn: about postmodernism, Spain in the twenthieth century and epistolary novel. Nope at University I learnt far more valuable lessons like: never drink in the club, 102 pasta recipes, that baggy purple jumpers are not my friend, nothing good happens after 4am and, most importantly, why you should never settle.
I’ve talked before about my personal happiness mantras but I thought that ‘don’t settle’ was interesting enough to deserve its own post. It was a phrase coined by me and my awesome flatmate Sam at University. There was a certain type of girl at Uni: gorgeous, smart, kind. Basically the type of person who only exists to make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves. This perfect girl would introduce you to her boyfriend and Sam and I would like at each other like ‘Him, really? She’s totally settling’*
*Except not out loud we weren’t that bitchy and judgemental. Yet.
Because despite all the aforementioned amazing qualities that girl was terrified of being alone. We were younger then and I don’t think either of us knew about the particular kind of loneliness that comes when you are all alone in a relationship. But we knew then that relationships were tough enough when you loved that person. And you were settling, not willing to invest everything you had? You were so screwed.
So ‘Don’t settle’ was a mantra we whispered to each when either of us was tempted to give up on our dreams and aim for something for more comfortable. Settling was one of the worst things you can do. It meant aiming for mediocrity wasting you potential on people and opportunities you didn’t care for. ‘Don’t settle’ we whispered as we kissed frog after frog and jumped from crappy job to crappier job.
And I listened and I waited and I never settled for anything else but love. But in my career? Guilty…
In Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech, which you should watch, he says:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
But I did settle. True confession: I’m almost 30 and I have never had a job I loved. Growing up, I never wanted to be one of those people living for the weekend. But until this October, I was. I’ve had a lot of jobs: good, bad jobs and jobs so horrifically awful its almost funny. I was the klutziness waitress ever for a short-lived period where I thankfully avoided scalding anybody. I was a crappy PA, double-booking meetings like there was no tomorrow. I worked in supermarkets and libraries, with the police and beauticians. Until I finally got a job, in my dream field, publishing.
Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer. However, until I made it I needed to find a way to buy quills and other writing accoutrements. So I settled for the next best thing editing other people words by aiming for a job in publishing. It took me two years but when I finally got that dream job, albeit at a non fiction publishing house, I was ecstatic.
It took me two years to realise I was settling, 23 months longer than it should have done. I wanted to work in publishing so much I ignored that the commute exhausted me, the work bored /infuriated me, the pay was a pittance. In fact I hated everything except my colleagues who were lovely and saying I worked in publishing. Saying I worked in publishing made me feel like somebody and that brief blush of joy at achieving a lifelong goal almost made everything better. But then there was that other sensation like I was constantly holding a balloon after water, pushing myself to be something unnatural. I ignored the signs and if it wasn’t for one thing I’d probably still be there: the boss from hell.
He still is the worst boss I’ve ever had: mercurial, selfish and mean and I thank him everyday. Because if he hadn’t been such a horrific example of a human being I would have settled. I would have sacrificed a large part of myself just so I could say I worked in publishing, while everyday I died slowly inside. Instead I left for a better job where I stayed for years, colouring inside the lines not risking everything for another career as a counsellor because I could not bear it if I hated that too.
Yes, I was an idiot and finally I faced my fears and took the plunge. Best decision ever. Thankfully, I love being a counsellor and I don’t have to cut off or ignore parts of myself to do it. I’m no longer settling. Best.feeling.ever. But here’s the thing I still feel guilty admitting. Much as I love working as a counsellor I don’t just want to do that. Saying that one job is not enough, it makes me feel greedy as if the world is a cake and I’m demanding the largest slice. I’m almost ashamed to admit how ambitious I am. But I want so much for myself and I’m not going to tear myself apart pretending that is not true. I won’t settle not anymore.
So I’m putting it out there. I want to be a counsellor. I want write books. I want to blog. I want to be a good friend, wife, daughter and eventually mother. And I want to live a full life. And I’m not going to apologise for wanting all those things and so much more. Here’s to having ambitions goals and never settling. What do you want?